Sensory Memory, Short Term Memory, Long Term Memory, Do you know what these are? You use them every single minute. Many of us struggle with memorizing things and even if we do, we can’t recall them later. The information is either lost, or we get confused. Why does this happen? The main reason is our failure to convert the sensory memory to long-term memory. First, understand the 3 stages of memory. Then we will move to the techniques that will help you to improve your memory.
- Stage 1: The first stage is the Sensory Memory. Whatever we experience for the first time passes through our sensory memory. While you are reading this article, there are certain activities going around you. The doorbell, ringing of phone, chirping of birds etc. It will pass through your sensory memory, and will fade away (if not paid attention to).
- Stage 2: In the second stage of memory, if you will pay attention to the information, it will move to the Short-term memory (STM). The information stays for 30-40 seconds in the
- Stage 3: In the Third stage of Memory, the information that can be retained for a longer duration is the long-term memory.
Here are 14 tried-and-tested techniques you can follow to improve YOUR memory.
- Pay attentionThe most basic, and very important technique is to pay attention to whatever is important to you, and you are required to remember for a long period. The information we listen/read first enters our sensory memory, and it is moved to the short-term memory only when we pay attention to it. Paying attention to the important information will aid in the process of memorizing later, and would improve memory in the long run.
- Understand the meaningOnce you pay attention to a particular piece of information, it is very important to understand it in detail, instead of simply repeating the word. This technique to improve memory is called Elaborative Rehearsal. For e.g., if you want to remember the word photosynthesis, don’t simply mug up the word, understand the meaning. “Photosynthesisis a process used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy, which is the food for the plant”.
It is a technique where a long piece of information is broken down into smaller chunks. The smaller chunks of information are easier to learn than the longer uninterrupted information.
- Simple chunking:If you want to remember a phone number e.g. 9899802801, you can simply remember the information as 9899-802-801, rather than reading the whole piece in one go.
- Meaningful chunking:If you want to remember a long list of letters, say, XMITRATCATHITMISS, you can simply break it as X-MIT-RAT-CAT-HIT-MISS.
- Chunking List:If you want to remember a long list of items, the best technique is to first organize the information and form chunks. For e.g., the list to remember includes: eggs, perfume, soap, butter, Chips, Bread, face wash, coke and nail paint. You can simply remember the information by organizing the information, and then forming chunks, such as:Eggs, Butter, Bread (Breakfast Items)
Perfume, Soap, Facewash, Nailpaint (Body Essentials)
Chips, Coke (Party Items)
- Explain to others
One of the simple techniques to improve memory is explaining the information to others. This will help you to understand the information better, and it will be stored in your long-term memory.
- Use your power of imagination
Method of Loci or the Memory walk, is an interesting technique to remember items, by placing them in a familiar location mentally. Suppose you want to remember a certain list of items to purchase, e.g., sugar, rice, potatoes and chips. Now imagine yourself walking through the route where you generally buy your ration. Next, imagine yourself placing all the items that you need to remember, one-by-one. Walk through the route and imagine buying all the items one-by-one. This method will help you remember the list better, and you will recall the list easily during the shopping.
- Give yourself cues to rememberIf you learn something in a happy mood, it will be easier to retrieve the information in a happy rather than a sad mood. Try to study in the room where your exam would be conducted. It will provide you more external cues, and the retrieval of the information would be better. The information is retrieved more easily, when the conditions at the time of receiving the information, are the same at the time of recalling. (Encoding Specificity).
- Space out your studies If you are a student, and you get confused every time you study, then you should stop studying similar subjects together. If you are studying a concept of science, try to study some topic that is not similar to it. Studying Social Science or mathematics can be a good option. This is because the learnt information earlier might get lost, or you may get confused between the two. Spacing out similar information is a good way to learn effectively, through which you can avoid the proactive (previously learnt information hinders the new learning) and the retroactive interference (the newly-learnt information will affect previously learnt information).
- Say it out loud: If you want to remember a piece of information, say it out loud. This will involve more than one sense. You will not only read it, but also listen to the information. This will help in better recall of the information.
- DoodleIn memory tests, doodlers performed 29% better than non-doodlers when asked to recall names and places (Plymouth University study). When you doodle, you draw and see the images, thus further aiding the process.
Example: If you want to remember a list of monuments for your history test, the easiest way is to draw those using different colors. This will improve your memory for the monuments.
- Wiggle your eyes Moving your eyes from right to left, and from left to right, could help you improve your concentration. The Left and the right side of your brain perform different activities, and this will help in improving the communication between them.
- Take Enough Sleep6 hours of sleep is not enough for everyone. You require 7-9 hours of sleep. If you don’t sleep well, than all problem-solving skills, creativity and critical thinking are compromised. You should always follow a routine, and avoid TV, laptops, tablets, cell phones etc., one hour before going to bed. Sleeping also helps in memory consolidation.
- ExerciseSwimming, cardio, running, dancing etc. for 30-35 minutes (3-4 times a week) can help to improve memory. Cardio-vascular exercises enhance the blood flow to the brain, further increasing the secretion of a protein necessary for long-term memory (neurotropic factor).
- Keep your stress in check
Chronic Stress destroys the brain. Always form realistic targets and take breaks during your work. Avoid multi-tasking and focus on a single task to reduce stress.
- Have a balanced diet
Having food rich in Vitamin-D, Omega-3 and reducing the intake of foods containing the damaging Omega-6 fats will make the brain healthy and would improve memory.
- Vitamin-C, found in citrus fruits, is associated with mental agility.
- Vitamin-B, on the other hand, is known to guard against age-related brain shrinkage and cognitive impairment. Fish, green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, peanuts, sesame seeds and eggs, can help to level up your brain power.
- Vitamin-K, found in Broccoli, kale, collard greens, and spinach, is required for brain cell development.
Follow these psychological techniques, and eat the right kind of foods, to improve your memory.
If you have anything to add to this post, please share in the comments.